Inside the mind of SS Rajamouli: Decoding how the RRR director lends scale to his storytelling-Entertainment News , Firstpost
It is the toughest, trickiest thing to go make a blockbuster engineered to please everyone. After the success of RRR, here’s trying to understand how SS Rajamouli does it every time.
A pre-Independence war drama has set the box office on fire in the times of the pandemic. This, as we know post Baahubali, is not Rajamouli’s first box office-breaking feat.
In the span of 12 films he has made from 2001, the director has only strived to make better and bigger films, that will appeal not just to an Indian audience but a global audience. So how did this ace director evolve from the director of Student No 1, a 2011 small budget Telugu film, to Baahubali, and now RRR, the 2022 magnum opus made on a budget of Rs 450 crore?
Producer G Dhananjayan says, “Rajamouli has redefined the reach of regional cinema consistently through his films, starting with Eega  to the Baahubali series, and now with RRR. The entire concept of pan-Indian films came from him when he succeeded with Eega across many Indian languages. This opened up this concept. Thanks to his vision, today, a lot of films are able to be made on a bigger budget targeted at a pan-Indian audience. Rajamouli stands tall among all Indian filmmakers for his vision, innovation, and expansion of the regional language market at a global level.”
Content is king
The evolution of Rajamouli’s career can perhaps be seen as three major phases: The early years where he proved himself as a Telugu film director (2001- 2005), the next phase where he specifically wrote hit films for Telugu stars (2006 – 2010), and third phase (from Eega in 2012 till now) where he proved to be a blockbuster director who has changed the face of Indian cinema. Like Tamil film director Shankar, Rajamouli has grown with every film, pushing the envelope when it comes to story-writing, and also budgets.
Two major influences in Rajamouli’s life in the Telugu film industry are his father KV Vijayendra Prasad, director and screenwriter, and renowned filmmaker K Raghavendra Rao. His father and K Raghavendra Rao were his mentors, and they have clearly moulded Rajamouli’s strong and exceptional story-writing skills. Raghavendra Rao proved to be successful in nearly every genre, from romance to fantasy to action films, and Rajamouli has also shown he is adept at various genres.
Having said that, mythology and period films seem to fascinate the Eega director, and that is where he has attained his greatest success as well. In fact, he has always stated that it is the story which will bring the audience to theatres, and not the stars in a pan India film. To him, a universal story that can engage the audience is what will make (even a regional) film click. Rajamouli had said at an event, “A pan Indian film does not mean that actors from different languages come together. A pan Indian film means a story that connects to everyone irrespective of the language. While creating a story, I think ‘If I switch off this dialogue portion, will the audience still connect to my movie?’ Many times, the answer is a yes.”
All about the Heroes
One of the key elements when you go through Rajamouli’s filmography is invincible heroism, and specifically, male heroism. The protagonist/s may be an actor or a fly, but he has always made sure that their characterisation/s is very strong, and every aspect of the film revolves around them. The heroes are larger-than-life, principled, and stand tall, and may fail in their mission but rise again, stronger and more vengeful. Then you meet the antagonist, who is mostly not grey and cannot be forgiven but only vanquished. If you cut to the characterisation of women in his films, they appear at key points in the film to take the story forward but are dispensable and often just there to look pretty.
Epic or Fantasy: Imagination rules
Over the years, the director has sharpened and honed his ability to adapt any subject to the big screen by always thinking big. And this is where the theme he chooses comes in. Both Baahubali and RRR had different stories and settings, but were based on the universal theme of fighting against oppression. Revenge is another theme that the director has played up in films like Maryada Ramana (2010) while Maghadheera (2009) and Eega were about love.
When he adapts a theme to the silver screen, he goes for a larger-than-life and grandiose setting. It is his imagination that pushes him to think big and achieve the undoable in nearly every film. Rajamouli has said earlier, “From a young age, I had this vivid imagination. When my father started working, he would tell us scenes he had developed, and I would amp them up in my own way.” And this is what he has proved to the world in his films, that he lets his imagination fly.
A mythological drama, a period war drama, a movie starring a fly… all these films may have straightforward themes but their presentation on screen has been astonishingly unique and never-seen-before. Is there a formula to the way Rajamouli thinks, writes, and directs these blockbusters? Not really. It is who he is at heart: a filmmaker whose unique sense of imagination and creativity has allowed him to conquer the minds and imaginations of the global audience.
A filmmaker whose actors and producers have blind faith in knowing he will not let them or the audience down, and can dedicate years to his project. And this is an extremely hard feat to achieve in this day and age when every actor and director is as good as his last film.
Award-winning director and actor Rahul Ravindran says, “It’s much easier to go make a movie that you believe is a good movie, and to hope that there will be enough people out there who share your taste. But it’s the toughest, trickiest thing to go make a blockbuster engineered to please everyone. You’re second-guessing audiences and speculating. And most people fail most of the time because it’s so tricky. Nobody really has a foolproof formula. Rajamouli sir, however, has cracked it every single time in his career. It’s incredible. Any filmmaker, big, small, new or seasoned will tell you how impossible it is. Every time someone tells me during a script discussion that doing this or not doing that will make the script a hit film, I always say… how can you be sure, nobody can be, except Rajamouli sir.”
RRR is playing in cinemas.
Latha Srinivasan is a senior journalist based in Chennai. Her passion is entertainment, travel, and dogs.
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